Thursday, 2 May 2013

What is Asperger's Syndrome - What is a Meltdown

Hello everyone.

In my last article explaining where I have been this past month, I explained the past month had been a tad rocky, up and down, all over the place. However you want to phrase it.
One consistency was that I experienced 'Meltdowns' and 'Shutdowns' two reactions which are quite normal for some Aspies, but to the outside world can seem very scary.
In this particular article, I will cover 'Meltdowns' what they are, and try and explain my own experiences.
I would like to disclaim these are my experiences and opinions, and everything differs from person to person with the condition, as it affects everyone differently, that and I do not have a psychology degree understanding of Aspergers, I am just an Aspie trying to spread awareness.

As I mentioned in the article 'What is Asperger's Syndrome - The Brain' I explained that those with Aspergers have different brain patterns, thought processes ect meaning we react differently, which goes part in parcel with meltdowns.

Meltdowns are reactions in short, in MOST cases can be seen by people as angry outbursts, temper tantrums, that kind of thing. However they are NOT to be confused with such behaviour.
If you have a child for example who is having a 'temper tantrum' it is mostly down to a battle of control e.g. child wants sweets, parent says no, child has tantrum...depending on outcome of tantrum either parent caves in and child gets sweets, asserting the child's power, or the parent holds firm and holds power.
A meltdown is different, as we Aspies perceive information from the brain differently, a meltdown can occur when we receive too much information. Where as most people could either brush it off, we struggle too due to our difference when it comes to perceiving things due to social and sensory differences. E.g. feeling isolated + bright light + distressing sounds + confusion + anger = meltdown (as an example).
Some meltdowns can be quiet, these are also known as 'Shutdonws' where the Aspie shuts off in essence socially, tends to seek solitude and tries to block out the world while trying to make sense of the world around them. This I will go over more in another article.
Stereotypically a meltdown is where the Aspie can take no more information and tends to lash out, which can be perceived as a temper tantrum, a physical attack, or a verbal barrage which having been on both sides having had meltdowns and being on the receiving end of them I realise people can feel intimidated or threatened when in proximity of an Aspie having a meltdown.
I want to reiterate, it is NOT a power play, it tends to be a reaction to to many conflicting things happening all at once e.g. sensory overload & negative social interaction.
Once a Meltdown is finished, the Aspie can feel scared, guilty, powerless ect. We DON'T want to have meltdowns, and when they occur its a case of feeling lost and out of control. The aftermath can feel just as bad, I still feel guilt from meltdowns I had when I was a small child, which looking back could not have been prevented, but does not stop the underlining feeling of powerlessness and guilt.

I will give a few examples from my life to hopefully give a few other examples.

When I was very young before age 12, I would often 'kick off' 'lash out' or have meltdowns in school when teased or bullied, until it became a game the kids played as they enjoyed getting a reaction out of me. It was mainly due to the fact that I didn't understand sarcasm, and I couldn't tell the difference between teasing and bullying. So it made me think that everyone was out to get me, and lead me to assume the worst of people, it also lead me to have a bad relationship with some family members and and family friends, I took teasing or jokes to heart as a personal attack and would react in a meltdown.

These days I know the difference, and for the most part I can now calm myself down before a meltdown comes to a head.
That said, they do still occur. Trying to squash them completely is impossible, its part of who I am, and its part of who we Aspies are, its part and parcel of Asperger's Syndrome.
I would go as far as to say that its not only normal for Aspies, but that its also healthy for Aspies. Meltdowns can help us to vent anger, frustration, and sadness from our system.
The only analogy of this I can think of is this.
If you shake up a fizzy drink, the pressure on it builds up...eventually it will burst open *BANG* all the fizzy drink poors out, causing a big mess, dying down when the contence of the fizzy drink container is reduced to near empty.
If an Aspie feel stressed, their pressure level builds up and up, until the point of *BANG* and then a Meltdown (or Shutdown) occurs, causing a big mess (chaos, if violent physically or verbally as an example), it then dies down, the Aspie is left drained, potentially confused, disoriented and in a bad way.

My concluding remarks to everyone would be, its normal for Aspies to experience Meltdowns, but trying to learn techniques to prevent a meltdown is essential. If your beginning to feel overwhelmed try talking to someone about how you feel, or write it down, listen to some music, go for a walk...these are all just ideas, you have to learn what works for you.

This video bellow I found on YouTube I think sums up what a meltdown is quite well.



I hope you have enjoyed this article.

Thanks all :)

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